Trans Activists You Need To Know

by HRC Staff

Trans Day of Visibility is a day to celebrate the beauty, uniqueness, and resilience of our trans siblings.

Despite countless attempts to silence and erase the trans community through waves of hateful legislation, cultures of ignorance and bigotry, or outright—and often fatal—acts of violence, trans individuals continue to survive and thrive.

Today we're happy to share the stories of several trans change makers, and to learn what brings them joy. From small victories to significant milestones, every moment of trans joy serves as a testament to the strength and perseverance of the trans community.

The pursuit of happiness (and joy!) is an inalienable right afforded to all Americans—including trans folk. It is our responsibility as community members and allies to create a culture that allows trans folks to feel safe, seen, and supported—today and every day.

Christiana H. (They/Them/She/Her) | Arizona

Christiana is a board member for the Arizona Trans Youth and Parent Organization

What brings you joy?

Took me a while to get to this perspective but life brings me joy, the whole thing. Every breath, every moment is an opportunity to experience things in a new way, I don’t take a single minute for granted anymore.

Why is visibility important to you?

Because hiding sucks! I have found a greater sense of security in this world being open and free and have found that there is no better way to advocate for the community than to share the joy of that with the world. If someone is going to hate on Joy, they must be very dedicated to feeling crappy all the time.

What is one thing you would like people to learn about your community?

That trans people are invaluable to this society. We bring an extra dimension to this world that simple binary existence cannot provide. I just saw the latest Taika Waititi movie, The Next Goal Wins, and there is a line in there that I love where someone explains to the main character about Fa’afafine, which is a pacific island variation of trans-ness: “Imagine a world without flowers. Well, Fa’afafine are our flowers. It’d be a pretty dull world without them. They’re beautiful”. We are like flowers, our beauty blossoms from within.

Mila Hellfyre (She/Her) | Puerto Rico

"At the heart of my commitment to Proyecto FQ lies a sincere dedication to intersectionality, recognizing that the essence of transness exists in every corner of our existence."

What brings you joy?
Joy comes to me in the form of my friends and family. After being homeless, my perception of family had changed drastically. The fun and heartfelt moments with my now chosen family have shown me that happiness and joy are synonyms of love and community.

Why is visibility vital to you?

Visibility has always been important to me because I grew up on a small island with scarce resources. I never saw anyone like me, and I thought that being trans was limited to the mainland USA. It wasn't until I turned 18 that I saw a trans women that looked like me for the first time, and it changed my life forever. In that moment, I saw a future where being myself was possible, and that brought hope not just for me but for the woman I have always been.

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?

It is crucial for people to understand that my community cannot attain Trans liberation without recognizing the colonial status of Puerto Rico. The fight against transphobia must be anti-colonial, regardless of whether the island becomes an independent country or joins the United States. Ignoring the colonial status of Puerto Rico means disregarding the rights and lives of gender non-conforming and transgender individuals who are fighting for their existence.

Rev. Debra J. Hopkins (She/Her/Hers) | North Carolina

“Every time you speak up for yourself or others, you are an advocate. You are a Voice for Change. It may be as simple as letting the cashier at the grocery store know they overcharged you for an item or telling your children not to speak to you disrespectfully. “Be a Voice for Change!”"

What brings me joy?
Outside of spending time at the beach, writing, taking long walks on a wooded hiking trail and talking with my grandchildren. What brings me joy? That’s easy. When others have the opportunity to live their authentic life. My joy comes from when I can provide guidance, and some sort of assistance to those most marginalized and impacted negatively by life’s challenges. My joy comes from when I can offer solutions to those affected by the many obstacles preventing them from achieving their desired goals, and I get great joy when I know in my spirit; no matter where I am or what I’m involved in. I know that I’m living my life with compassion, commitment, empathy honesty, and respect for the wellbeing of others who are suffering; and that I try and live my life as authentically as an example for whoever I cross paths with on the journey called life- will be inspired, encouragement and hope.

Why is visibility important to you?

The answer is complicated, and there are many important reasons why visibility matters. I believe visibility for transgender people, in particular, helps to inspire, hope and strength to be who they are. I also believe that more LGBTQ+ people are included in the media. This means they are actually seen by society as opposed to being rendered unseen or invisible. I believe, that when people are able to see something represented, they are better able to understand and grasp who those people are, and this creates an important shift in the social consciousness to include people from a range of different backgrounds. Another crucial piece to consider is when people see representation of themselves in the media, this can foster a great sense of affirmation of their identity. Feeling affirmed with one’s own sense of self can boost, positive feelings of self-worth, which is quite different than feeling, as if you are wrong or bad for being who you are, the message that can come from a society in which LGBTQ+ people are invisible, especially through the lens of the media, is that “you don’t exist, and you don’t matter.” I often use this as my motto when speaking to others: If you want change “Be a Voice for Change” and know “Brighter Tomorrows Begin With You.”

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?

This question is easy. It’s determination, commitment, and perseverance, in spite of the circumstances. The overwhelming challenges we encounter. Continue to be Voices for Change. And finally, it's unconditional support and love it provides for the LGBTQ+ community.

Toni-Michelle (She/Her) | Georgia

Toni-Michelle is a Media Personality & Co-Founder/Executive Director of SnapCo.

What brings you joy?
Safety. Travel. Music. Warm hugs. Phone calls and link ups with loved ones.

Why is visibility important to you?
I believe that visibility is important as an organizer is important because our role is to find the people who are looking for us. But as a Black trans woman, I do not value visibility. Visibility doesn’t bring me ease. Visibility doesn’t keep us safe or even keep us alive. I value deep presence, connection, and action. I don’t need everyone to see me. I need people to have the resources they need to survive.

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?
I want people to know that we are loved. That there are people in our lives who appreciate what we offer to their worlds.

TAYLOR ALXNDR (They/She) | Georgia

Taylor is the Co-founder & executive director of Southern Fried Queer Pride & mother of the House of ALXNDR.

What brings you joy?
What brings me joy is seeing trans people happy, being fulfilled, able to live completely in their truth, enjoying their autonomy to exist how they want, and being supported in a world that is often so hostile towards our existence.

Why is visibility important to you?
I feel as if visibility is a double-edged sword. On one side, it's amazing to see yourself reflected in a world that tries to erase you. Whether it be in media, entertainment, or just within the community, visibility definitely helps you feel as if you are not alone, and that there are others like you out there. Sometimes being trans can be incredibly isolating, so visibility is so important to combat that. On the other side, I do feel as if visibility can sometimes make us more vulnerable and more visible as targets. Conservative groups and anti-trans organizations and people will often see the visibility of trans people as a reason to make us the target of violence and harm. This often affects Black and brown trans people exponentially. I think it is important to remember that visibility does not correlate directly to safety, and we have to always keep that in mind.

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?
We say it all the time, but it bears repeating that trans people have always been here, and will always be here. Our existence has been documented throughout time, centuries, multiple societies, across the world. And honestly, trans people, existing and expanding our notion of gender not only helps us exist in our 100% truth but also allows cisgender people to expand the notion of their gender that they have never explored. You're welcome cisgender folks, now give us our rights.

Sheani C. (She/Her) | Florida

Shea is the co-director of the Come Out With Pride Trans and Nonbinary Task Force. She is also on the board of Contigo Fundand executive director of The RISE Initiative in Lake County Florida.

What brings you joy?
I experience joy being in safe and brave spaces with community members and we are all open and sharing with one another.

Why is visibility important to you?
Visibility is important to me because it’s harder to erase you once your presence is known and made apparent. In times where trans existence is being tried in public, it’s important to say “I’m here…”

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?
I think it’s important that people learn that transgender and queer identities have always existed and will always exist. We can not be legislated out of public life.

Olivia Hill (She/Her) | Tennessee

Olivia made history as the first openly transgender person elected to Metro Nashville Council in Tennessee.

What brings you joy?
Doing things for others, Especially when I’m lucky enough to do it anonymously. Being in public office gives me plenty of opportunities to fill my cup.

Why is visibility important to you?

A lot of times when I meet people I’m the first trans person that they have ever met in person. So many trans people are still hidden in the shadows and for the first time in the state of Tennessee, the trans community can say “I can be what I see.” I had hidden myself for almost 50 years. You never know when you are around a closeted trans person. Representation is everything!

What one thing would you like people to learn about your community?
That trans men are men, trans women, are women. I think that’s the biggest problem we have in the Trans community. Most people see trans women as men in wigs. They don’t see any difference between us and Drag Queens. It’s why I spend so much time educating folks on a journey for a trans person is like. I started my own company, called “Olivia Speaks” traveling around the country and educating folks about the journey of a trans person.